Residents defy Eiler Fire evacuation orders, stay to fight

Residents defy Eiler Fire evacuation orders, stay to fight

HAT CREEK, Calif. - Despite mandatory evacuation orders for communities threatened by the Eiler Fire in far eastern Shasta County, numerous residents are refusing to leave and instead sticking around their properties to fight the flames.

Due to the fire, 20 structures have burned, 8 of them homes.

The only restaurant in Hat Creek, the Fireside Village, survived the flames Friday night but was destroyed when another wave tore through Saturday evening.

On Saturday along Highway 89, 14-year Hat Creek resident Roger Sleight said he and his wife Jamie were out helping firefighters.

"We were just walking the fire line since we can't do much of anything else," Sleight said, "we were walking along there right after they did a back fire this morning. So we wanted to make sure nothing's jumping the line."

More lines were created Saturday evening when air attack tankers dropped retardant and back burning operations eliminated fuels.

"Even though we think we have a pretty good buffer zone, that has either burned or has retardant on it, we're still waiting for the main fire to burn down to it to make sure all of the fuel is gone," Sleight said.

Along Highway 89 just north of Cassel Road, fire crews worked to build more lines by burning brush and trees along the roadway.

Winds out of the west pushed ash and embers toward the community of Cassel, where more fire crews awaited any sign of spot fires.

"As they backfire we'll watch the fire and see if it's growing and if it's starting to crown -- starting to go up high in the trees -- then if the wind pick up, it may spot to this area," said Captain Eric Oliveri, a strike team crew member with the Office of Emergency Services.

Mandatory evacuation orders put in place Saturday night for Cassel have been heeded by most, but as with Hat Creek, some choose to stay with their properties.

"We're keeping sprinklers going just to keep things wet and keeping the pets close. And we've got everything packed in case we have to bug out," said Marcy Schmidt.

Schmidt, who lives in Burney, decided to travel to her family's Cassel property to ensue it's safety.

"We knew that this area was safe. It's surrounded by green fields, we've got a nice water source over here. So we feel very safe."

As for her home in Burney, where advisory evacuations have been enacted, she's confident that efforts to build bulldozer lines overnight will prove successful.

"We had friends that we were talking to this morning that said they could hear all night the crunching of the trees and stuff as the dozers took out those lines. Thank God for them," Schmidt said.

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